Greenville, NC | Scott Griffin and Chikako Massey | www.practicon.com
When we need something, the SBTDC finds the people and resources to build a bridge so we can get where we want to go.
WHAT THEY DO Founded in 1982, Practicon finds and develops innovative products for the dental industry. Their primary market is in private-practicing dentists across the United States and Canada, but they also have sales divisions for dental and hygiene schools, wholesaling their proprietary products to other dental product distributors, and government sales. Their latest 244-page catalog introduces more than 250 new products. Most are procured from other vendors, but Practicon’s research and development team is ramping up with 18-20 projects in development right now. Practicon currently employs 63 individuals, and for two years in a row, it has been named one of the Top 20 Small Businesses to Work For by Business North Carolina.
UNDER THE CAPE Ann Page Griffin moved next door to a pediatric dentist, Dr. Jasper Lewis, Jr. and as the two chatted over the hedge, they imagined the combination of her education background and his pediatric dentistry. She started working with Jasper in 1980 and by 1982, her work had grown to the point that she needed to separate from the dental practice and incorporate. She needed tools and resources and found none on the market, so they began developing their own, which is how the first catalog was born.
Scott Griffin graduated from Wake Forest and went on to receive his MBA from ECU in 1984. He worked for a company in Charlotte for one year before being faced with a choice. He had a job offer in Dallas, or he could come back to Greenville and help turn Practicon into a fully-fledged business. He took a chance and they jumped into business – an educator and a student fresh from grad school who had never really had a job. They did not know exactly what they were doing, but they did it well because 35 years later they are going strong and are well respected in the industry.
GAINING A GOVERNMENT FOOTHOLD About three years ago, Scott hired Chikako Massey in New Business Development. Shortly thereafter, he handed her the challenge of doing business with the government with the instructions to figure out how to get it done. They had tried several times before to jump the hurdles involved with Government Procurement, but they did not have the resources to make much headway. Chikako’s persistent and diligent spirit was what they had been missing. Scott has worked with the SBTDC for nearly 30 years and introduced Chikako to SBTDC business counselor, Ariana Billingsley. Ariana sat down with Chikako at the initial stage and gave her a crash course in government business which was a crucial launching point for Chikako to really move forward into government contracting. Chikako attended the SBTDC-PTAC event Marketplace in Durham, making an important contact, which led to a signed contract. “All of our successful contracts from that client are a result of Ariana’s suggestion that I attend Marketplace.” Ariana also helped walk Chikako through registering for HUB Zone Certification and paired Practicon with an MBA student from the Kenan Institute. He provided all the legwork for working with the federal government internationally. Overall, Scott believes the government procurement aspect of the business has added about 5% growth, and that is in just two years.
THE BUYER’S CLUB Another thing that Scott worked on with the SBTDC was the Buyer’s Club, essentially a loyalty program. They worked with an MBA team, which surveyed customers and came up with the components to make the program successful. Today it is known as Premier Customers and has 13,000 members, generating 80% of the revenue of their core customer base. “We were introduced to that team through the SBTDC, and it will have a major impact on our revenue for years to come.”
TO THE RESCUE Practicon is a believer in using its success for good. For every sale of one of their SmileGoods toothbrushes, a portion of the sale goes to Cause Life, which establishes clean water wells in impoverished areas all over the world. To date, Practicon has provided the means to build thirteen wells in Guatemala, India, Uganda and Zimbabwe. Closer to home, the company has an annual push to contribute a minimum of 650 hours of community service. They met that goal before the year was half over. They are also working on 100% participation in at least one hour of community service, whether it is with Give Kids a Smile, an annual event that they contribute to; Meals on Wheels; or anything the employee is interested in.
Scott himself is on the board of Third Street Educational Center and Eastern Carolina Vocational Center. He’s also set up a We Care Fund at work where employees can deduct from their payroll. If anyone has some sort of life struggle they can draw from the Fund. He even took all the employees to Disney World recently when they hit their goals.
This story was originally published in the SBTDC 2018 Success Stories. View the entire publication here.
More Success Stories
The bottom line is: if you have a business and don’t make wise financial decisions, it doesn’t matter how passionate you are, you won’t stay in business long. That’s why the SBTDC is so instrumental to small businesses and start-ups. It’s free so you don’t have to pay for those resources.
Stay Online Corp
There is a lot to know for exporting. There are a lot of questions, and a lot of discomfort. That’s where organizations like the SBTDC have helped a lot. We’re constantly asking,”What do we do? How do we go about it? What certifications are required by the countries on our products?” Our counselors have the answers. They took a company that was clueless about interacting outside the US and helped pave the way to our comfort zone.